For This Valedictorian, It’s All in the Family

Laguna Beach High School valedictorian Bianca Sganga

2011's valedictorian Bianca Sganga, left, with her siblings, Jessica and Jake, also an LBHS valedictorian..

When it comes to success for graduating senior Bianca Sganga, valedictorian of Laguna Beach High School’s graduating class, it’s all in the family, and both nature and nurture have conspired in her achievement.

In an unusual double play, Bianca’s brother Jake earned the same honor in 2009. While their older sister Jessica wasn’t valedictorian, she too was among the top 10 of her class. “All three of my kids are hard workers, very self-motivated,” said their mother, Liz Sganga.

An appreciation for education turned out such high achievers, according to Mrs. Sganga. She and her husband John both came from families that stressed its importance, a value they passed to their children. When their children easily mastered schoolwork, the parents told them they had a gift that shouldn’t go to waste.

Apparently, they heeded their parents, but nature’s role also had a chance to shine.

Liz has a master’s degree in biomedical engineering. John majored in mechanical engineering as an undergrad before going to law school. Jake, a sophomore at Duke University, is majoring in biomedical engineering. Sister Jessica, who majored in math as an undergrad at Colgate University, is now in law school.

One sees that Sganga-made apples don’t fall far from the tree.

As for striving for the top ranking of her class, which put her in the running for valedictorian, Bianca said, “It’s definitely a part of my nature that I want to succeed and do well.”

Bianca also plans to major in biomedical engineering in college. Though she concedes her brother has been an influence, her own love for science and math is steering her interest in medicine. When looking at college course offerings, those with a medical bent appealed to her. “What really sparked my interest was the whole idea of prosthetic limbs,” said Bianca, who is considering acceptances from New York’s Columbia University and Ithaca’s Cornell University. She expects to make a final decision after visiting the campuses over spring break.

Liz agrees that something in her progeny’s genetic makeup gives them a propensity for math and science. “All you want for your children is that they are happy and become competent, independent adults,” she said, adding that she and her husband encouraged their kids to have well-rounded lives and to do well at whatever they pursue. In spite of parental encouragement, Liz attributes her children’s success to their own tenacity and perseverance. “They’ve always seen the bigger picture,” she said. “We are very, very lucky.”

Banish any notion that this year’s valedictorian is a math or science geek. Since her freshman year, Bianca has played on the school’s varsity tennis team. For community service, she showed kids hermit crabs and other sea critters as a camp counselor at Dana Point’s Ocean Institute. She also is enjoying the novels and different class structure of her English class compared to her usual staples of math and science.

One of Bianca’s duties as valedictorian will be to throw the first pitch at the Angel’s game for Laguna Family Night at Angel Stadium on June 11. Despite her athletic success on the court, she’s a little nervous about being in the spotlight. “It’s a long way from the pitcher’s mound to home plate,” she remarked.

But she’s practicing and is getting coached by her sister and brother, who played baseball at LBHS.

Bianca admits to one failing. “I’m terrible at singing, but I sing anyway.”

That’s tenacity!



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